Café Olé

With a climate like ours, if we want to live outdoors in continental style, we have to adapt to the inclement weather conditions Mother Nature rains upon us.

So as more and more restaurants and cafés spill onto the streets in the hope of a chink of sunshine and a warm breeze, up go the waterproof canopies and umbrellas to protect us from an inevitable shower.

And even if the weather suddenly reverts to what has become the norm, of teeming rain and a gale force seven in July, the ignition of a few gas heaters and donning of a jumper will ensure our enjoyment is not hampered.

For the less hardy, café style with its little tables and sturdy accessories adapts beautifully to the domestic environment, especially indoors, and outdoors, too, if the forecast is good. It’s the look to bring a little continental chic to your sunroom, bay window, patio, balcony, or terraced house backyard. It uses simple, well-designed furniture and tough but stylish table wares to withstand the outdoors, just as one would find in pavement cafes all around a more reliably sunny Europe.

In the interests of economy and to make a café table earn its keep for more than three months of the year, deploy it as an occasional table indoors on which to perch a lamp and some knick-knacks, or site a round version in a corner of the hall with a vase of flowers to soften the hall’s long straight lines. It could even work as a bedside table, too.

But while it’s summertime start by deploying your café table to the patio and add the all-important wares and accessories. This is not a style that lends itself to opulent decoration or delicate china: the simplicity and sturdiness of functional wares are key to achieving an authentic café look.

Typically tumblers are more important than wine glasses, even for wine-drinking. Heavy guage, ribbed glasses for all purposes — water, wine, and beer are designed to withstand high-traffic food operations.

For added authenticity, decant wine into carafes, avoiding your precious, irreplaceable pieces and using a simple, unadorned sturdy version. Delph should also be suitable for purpose, white and plain, with simple cutlery of unembellished stainless steel.

For the hygiene-conscious or work-shy, fabric table cloths synonymous with café style have been replaced by PVC versions which are both water repellent and easy to wipe clean. Patterns are endless in their variety, but for authenticity try a check or stripe.

Bread baskets are a must, filled only with the crustiest of breads (no sliced pan here please), as are little oil and vinegar decanters that allow your guest to dress their own salad simply, without the added flavours we expect from our commercial salad dressings. Try olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and fill your salad bowl with seasonal vegetables, and a few nasturtium and marigold petals harvested from the garden. It’s sunshine in a bowl when the real thing fails to shine.

* Next week we’re looking at how to introduce new trends


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